“Whoa…sho, sho, sho… Jamu-ya, sho, sho, sho! Whoa…sho, sho, sho…Tsheri-ya, sho, sho, sho,” Tshitem Dorji calls out shaking a feedbag of maize kernels. Jamu, an obedient mare, and Tsheri, a black mule, quickly respond to my cousin’s gentle entreaties. They emerge from the thick rhododendron forests to enjoy their morning meal before being saddled for the day.
It’s a clear, crisp spring morning in the mountains. And Tshochuyala, where we have camped, is beautiful. The rhododendron – several varieties of them – are in full bloom. And much of the meadows are literally carpeted with purple primulas. Giant magnolias punctuate the pristine forests with stately white flowers. And, in the distance, I can see parts of Sombaykha. I’m visiting my constituency.
“There’s enough grass here” Tshitem Dorji tells me, “so the horses stayed close to camp.” I’m happy for the horses and for my cousin.
But most camping sites are difficult. The horses don’t find enough grass, so during the night, they can cover great distances, foraging for food. And, in the morning, my cousin won’t be able to just call for them. Instead, he’d have to personally track them down, sometimes for many hours. I’ve seen this happen often. And yet, Tshitem Dorji, will not tether his horses at night. “They work the whole day,” he explains. “So they need to be free to graze at night.” Of course, he’s right.
So reading about the animals impounded in Motithang got me worried. The horses must belong to farmers like Tshitem Dorji. Farmers, probably from Lingzhi, who trekked to Thimphu to buy essential provisions – rice, cooking oil, salt – for their families. Farmers who refused to tether their horses at night. Farmers who don’t know about the Motithang pound. Or can’t afford the money to retrieve their animals.
We need to take better care of our farmers, those from distant Lingzhi and those in Thimphu. They, and their animals, roamed freely in all of Thimphu for many, many generations before we took their lands away from them.
Yes, we can no longer allow stray horses and cattle in the capital. Still, locking them up for months on end is not the solution. Instead, let’s look for the owners. And return the animals to them. If our farmers can’t afford the fine, waive it off – it costs much more to keep the animals locked up! And if that’s not possible, any one of our readers would be willing to help.
In the meantime, relocate the animals to a farm outside the city. That would be cheaper. And better for the animals. That would also prevent the TCC from breaking their own regulations: no one is permitted to keep cattle and horses inside the municipal boundaries. And that includes the city corporation itself. They cannot impound animals in Motithang!